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« Reply #930 on: Jun 13, 2018, 05:09 AM »

Ireland to vote on removing blasphemy as an offence

Referendum will probably be held on the same day as the presidential election

Reuters in Dublin
13 Jun 2018 19.40 BST

Ireland will hold a referendum in October to remove the offence of blasphemy from its constitution, Charlie Flanagan, the justice and equality minister, has said.

The Irish government has approved the preparation of a bill to remove blasphemy as part of a commitment to constitutional reforms. The referendum will probably be held on the same day as the presidential election.

Government ministers see last month’s abortion referendum as a milestone on a path to change for a country that was one of Europe’s most socially conservative a few decades ago, and are keen to push forward with other constitutional reforms.

After the blasphemy referendum, a vote on a controversial reference in the constitution to a “woman’s life within the home” is likely.

“In terms of Ireland’s international reputation, this is an important step,” Flanagan said on Tuesday.

“By removing this provision from our constitution, we can send a strong message to the world that laws against blasphemy do not reflect Irish values and that we do not believe such laws should exist.”

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« Reply #931 on: Jun 13, 2018, 05:12 AM »

Populist talkshows fuel rise of far right, German TV bosses told

Political shows’ negative focus on Islam erodes social cohesion, says cultural council

Kate Connolly in Berlin
Wed 13 Jun 2018 05.00 BST

The head of Germany’s most powerful cultural body has called for the plug to be pulled on the nation’s multitude of political talkshows for a year, arguing that their populist agenda has helped fuel the rise of the far right.

Olaf Zimmermann, who heads the German cultural council, an umbrella group for organisations from art galleries to television companies, said public broadcasters needed to step back and rethink a format that has helped cement gloom-ridden public attitudes towards refugees and Islam, and propelled the Alternative für Deutschland party into parliament at last September’s election.

“I’d suggest for them, take a break for a year ... though the length of the intermission isn’t the decisive factor. What is crucial is that they return with new talkshow concepts and try to come up with more suitable contents with regards to social cohesion in our society,” Zimmermann said, arguing that the public broadcasters ARD and ZDF were obsessed with refugee-related issues, often framing them negatively.

The cultural council, which is taxpayer funded, has pointed out that since 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis when almost a million refugees and migrants entered Germany, more than 100 political talk shows have put a topic related to migration at the centre of their discussion.

Since September’s election, which saw the AfD enter the Bundestag for the first time, much debate has surrounded the extent to which framing an issue, or lending a topic a certain perspective, might have helped their cause.

Television analysts have argued that the issue of refugees has been dealt with in a mostly negative way.

TV bosses have defended their formats, admitting the intensity of the refugee debate led to the topic being far more widely discussed in 2015 and 2016 than ever before, but arguing that it was no longer a dominant theme.

Even last week, however, ARD’s main talkshow Hart Aber Fair - Hard But Fair - led with the question: “To what extent is it possible to integrate young men who have fled from war and archaic societies? How unsafe is Germany as a result of them?”

The programme was triggered by the murder of a 14-year-old German girl whose body was discovered in Wiesbaden last week. The 20-year-old Iraqi man suspected of her rape and murder was extradited from Iraq to Germany this week to face trial.

Zimmermann said in too many cases refugees were unfairly presented as a threat to German society.

The production team of Hart Aber Fair said it rejected the accusation that they had unfairly labelled all refugees as dangerous. “As journalists we find the concept of framing alien to us. We are simply trying to represent the issues which are occupying people, for what they are,” they said.

A recent talkshow moderated by the veteran host Sandra Maischberger was advertised in TV listings with the title: “Are we too tolerant towards Islam?” Critics were quick to pounce on the word “we” as being problematic because it suggested “them and us”. The programme’s title was swiftly changed to: The Islam debate: where does our tolerance end?

Other recent talkshow topics included ones entitled Refugees and criminality, and Beethoven or Burka?

Kai Hafez, a media analyst, said that immigration was rarely presented in talkshows as anything other than negative. “The viewers get used to these negative expressions, and long-term that way the rightwing populists manage to press their points home,” he told Der Spiegel.

For their part, the AfD – whose representatives are relative newcomers on the talkshow circuit, the party only having been founded in 2014 – have been deeply critical of the extent to which they are excluded from TV debates.

Last week that impression was only intensified after Alexander Gauland, the party’s leader, had his invitation to appear on Hart Aber Fair withdrawn in protest at his description of the Nazi era as the equivalent of “a bird shit” in the context of “more than 1,000 years of successful German history”.

AfD supporters reacted to the ban with fury on social media, calling it part of a campaign to squeeze the party off the airwaves.

Typically a German talkshow concentrates on a single topic for 60 to 90 minutes. Guests invariably include media representatives, at least one member of the cabinet and opposition politicians.

Many media watchers have long been critical of the extent to which the arguably tired and unimaginative format dominates German television, accusing programme makers of choosing it because it is cheap – despite Germany having one of the highest licence fees in the world – and blaming it in part for the dramatic fall in viewers in recent years.

Controllers of the broadcasters have hit back. “We believe the talk shows are an enriching part of our programming,” Rainald Becker, the editor-in-chief of the ARD told Die Welt. “Of course we discuss Islam now and then, but we also have other topics such as housing, the collapse of bee colonies or the shortage of carers.

“And to those who want to complain, I say to them: you know that there’s an off switch.”

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« Reply #932 on: Jun 13, 2018, 05:15 AM »

Kim Jong-un hailed victor in 'meeting of century' by North Korean media

Supreme leader credited with creating conditions for peace as South Korea and Japan voice security concerns

Justin McCurry in Tokyo and agencies
Wed 13 Jun 2018 07.17 BST

North Korea has hailed Tuesday’s summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un as marking the end to hostile relations with the US, with state media depicting the meeting as a diplomatic victory for its leader.

Trump offered his own assessment as he landed back on US soil, tweeting that Pyongyang no longer posed a nuclear threat.

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    Just landed - a long trip, but everybody can now feel much safer than the day I took office. There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea. Meeting with Kim Jong Un was an interesting and very positive experience. North Korea has great potential for the future!
    June 13, 2018

US to suspend military exercises with South Korea, Trump says
Read more

In its first report on the summit, North Korea’s official KCNA news agency offered a glowing account of the talks, name-checking Kim 16 times.

The front page of the ruling workers’ party newspaper, the Rodong Sinmun, meanwhile, ran photographs of Kim warmly shaking hands with Trump. It said the “meeting of the century” was held to bring an end to “extreme, hostile relations” between the countries.

KCNA said the talks were “epoch-making” and would help foster “a radical switchover in the most hostile [North Korea]-US relations”.

It credited Kim with creating the conditions for peace and stability on the Korean peninsula.

    Martyn Williams (@martyn_williams)

    The summit headlines Wednesday's Rodong Sinmun in North Korea. Big pictures of Trump, Kim, beaming on the front page. Two more pages of photos and the summit declaration on page 4. pic.twitter.com/E4WElii6W6
    June 12, 2018

Trump, KCNA said, “appreciated that an atmosphere of peace and stability was created on the Korean peninsula and in the region, although distressed with the extreme danger of armed clash only a few months ago, thanks to the proactive peace-loving measures taken by the respected Supreme Leader from the outset of this year”.

It also celebrated what some have described as Kim’s rapid transformation from reviled dictator to statesman following the positive reception he received in Singapore.

“Singapore, the country of the epoch-making meeting much awaited by the whole world, was awash with thousands of domestic and foreign journalists and a large crowd of masses to see this day’s moment which will remain long in history,” it said.

The agency added that Kim and Trump had accepted invitations to visit their respective countries. “Kim Jong-un invited Trump to visit Pyongyang at a convenient time and Trump invited Kim Jong-un to visit the US.

“The two top leaders gladly accepted each other’s invitation, convinced that it would serve as another important occasion for improved DPRK-US relations,” it said, referencing the country’s official name, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

The summit has been widely regarded as a diplomatic coup for North Korea, which repeated its commitment towards denuclearisation in a joint statement that offered no details of how that would be achieved.

In return, Trump, to the surprise of US ally South Korea and his own military, said he would end joint US-South Korea military exercises. Pyongyang considers the annual drills as a rehearsal for invasion.

Trump said the drills would not be held while North Korea was still talking. “We’re not going to be doing the war games as long as we’re negotiating in good faith,” he told Fox News Channel.

South Korean officials and US military commanders said they had had no advance knowledge of Trump’s announcement. Japan’s defence minister said the US military presence in South Korea and joint military exercises were “vital” for east Asian security. “We would like to seek an understanding of this between Japan, the US and South Korea,” Itsunori Onodera told reporters.

Onodera said Japan would continue joint military exercises with the US and continue to improve its defences against a possible North Korean ballistic missile strike.

Some analysts said Trump had made an unnecessary concession. Ending the drills “is in excess of all expert consensus, South Korean requests, and even a close reading of North Korean demands”, said Adam Mount of the Federation of American Scientists.

Melissa Hanham of the US-based Center for Nonproliferation Studies pointed out that Pyongyang’s commitment towards denuclearisation was nothing new. The regime had “already promised to do this many times,” she said on Twitter, adding the two sides “still don’t agree on what ‘denuclearisation’ means”.

On Wednesday, Trump again hailed the summit as historic.

    Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump)

    The World has taken a big step back from potential Nuclear catastrophe! No more rocket launches, nuclear testing or research! The hostages are back home with their families. Thank you to Chairman Kim, our day together was historic!
    June 13, 2018

The release last month of three Americans being held by North Korea was secured during a surprise visit to Pyongyang by the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. The date for Tuesday’s summit was set just hours after Tony Kim, Kim Hak-song and Kim Dong Chul arrived back in the US.

In another tweet on Wednesday, Trump thanked Kim for taking “the first bold step toward a bright new future for his people”, adding, “Our unprecedented meeting ... proves that real change is possible!”

Just before Air Force One took of from Singapore on Tuesday evening, Trump said he believed that Kim – whom he referred to as “little rocket man” last year – was a leader with whom he could do business. “I can only tell you that from the time I’ve dealt with him, which is really starting 90 days ago ... I think he wants to get it done,” Trump said when asked if he had any doubts about Kim’s sincerity.

The president said Kim had immediately agreed to his request to return the remains of American prisoners of war and those who went missing in action during the 1950-53 Korean war. “As soon as I had my first opportunity, which was toward the end, I said could you do it. He said we will do it.”

But he was still vague on how Washington intended to verify denuclearisation. “We’re going to have to check it and we will check it. We’ll check it very strongly.”

Asked if he trusted Kim, Trump said: “I do.”

During Tuesday’s summit, Kim said it was “urgent” for North Korea and the US to halt “irritating and hostile military actions against each other”, KCNA reported.

“Kim Jong-un and Trump had the shared recognition to the effect that it is important to abide by the principle of step-by-step and simultaneous action in achieving peace, stability and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula,” it reported.

The North Korean leader was quoted as saying the regime could take more goodwill measures if the US reciprocated with genuine measures to build trust, and that the two countries should take legal and institutional steps to avoid antagonising each other. The report added that Trump said he “understood”.

South Korean media were generally positive about the talks, but pointed out that important questions remained over the process and timing of North Korean denuclearisation.

“The summit fell short of expectations of a road map for denuclearisation, but the issue of dismantling the North Korean nuclear programme and assuring the security of its regime – two key agenda items of the summit – are as difficult to solve as a tangled knot,” the Korea Herald said in an editorial.

The paper cautioned against any reduction in US forces based in South Korea, saying the bilateral alliance was key to South Korean president Moon Jae-in’s ability to foster further cross-border detente and implement the agreement.

“For Moon to perform the role well, it is important to uphold a solid Korea-US alliance. The alliance is the basis of South Korea’s diplomacy and security. At its core are the US forces stationed in Korea”, it said.

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« Reply #933 on: Jun 13, 2018, 05:32 AM »

Robert Mueller warns Russia is trying to influence US 2018 midterm elections

Dominique Jackson
Raw Story
13 Jun 2018 at 18:44 ET

Special counsel Robert Mueller filed a motion on Tuesday warning that Russian intelligence is attempting to influence the U.S. 2018 midterm elections, reported Politico.

According a court filing with a federal judge in Washington, the Mueller team wrote: “Public or unauthorized disclosure of this case’s discovery would result in the release of information that would assist foreign intelligence services, particularly those of the Russian Federation, and other foreign actors in future operations against the United States.”

The motion continued: “The substance of the government’s evidence identifies uncharged individuals and entities that the government believes are continuing to engage in interference operations like those charged in the present indictment.”

His team did not offer any specific details regrading meddling. However, in the court filing on Tuesday, his team aimed to stop former Russian intelligence, that meddled in 2016 U.S. presidential election from securing any more information.

“Information within this case’s discovery identifies, sources, methods, and techniques used to identify the foreign actors behind these interference operations,” prosecutors wrote. “And disclosure of such information will allow foreign actors to learn of these techniques and adjust their conduct, thus undermining ongoing and future national security investigations. The government has particularized concerns about discovery in this case being disclosed to Russian intelligence services.”

Attorney Eric Dubelier, for Concord Management, the Russian firm connected to the case did not respond to a request for comment for the story.


Rod Rosenstein to ‘subpoena’ Republican-led House committee: report

Dominique Jackson
Raw Story
12 Jun 2018 at 17:11 ET                  

During a meeting earlier this year, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, threatened the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee. He wrote in an email saying he would “subpoena” lawyers for emails, phone records and other documents, according to Fox News.

The move was referred to as a “personal attack” by aides. The meeting involved senior FBI and Justice Department officials. Kash Patel, the former senior counsel for counterterrorism wrote to the House Office of General Counsel about Rosenstein’s actions.

“The DAG [Deputy Attorney General] criticized the Committee for sending our requests in writing and was further criticism of the Committee’s request to have DOJ/FBI do the same when responding,” she wrote. “Going so far as to say that if the Committee likes being litigators, then ‘we [DOJ] too [are] litigators, and we will subpoena your records and your emails,’ referring to HPSCI [House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence] and Congress overall.”

Officials from the Department of Justice and FBI said the claims are false.

Rosenstein “never threatened anyone in the room with a criminal investigation.” The official told Fox News. The source said all parties “are all quite clear that the characterization of events laid out here is false. The official concluded by saying that Rosenstein “was responding to a threat of contempt.”


Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s lawyers flee — and he’s likely to flip soon: report

Brad Reed
Raw Story
13 Jun 2018 at 10:38 ET                   

A new report from ABC News claims that longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen is getting close to accepting a deal to cooperate with federal investigators.

According to ABC’s sources, the law firm that has been representing Cohen so far “is not expected to represent him going forward” after this week.

The bigger news, however, is that Cohen is now likely to flip after being abandoned by his current legal counsel.

“Cohen, now with no legal representation, is likely to cooperate with federal prosecutors in New York,” the ABC report claims. “This development, which is believed to be imminent, will likely hit the White House, family members, staffers and counsels hard.”

Cohen and his attorneys have until Friday to complete a privilege review of more than 3.7 million documents that were seized as part of an FBI raid on Cohen’s office earlier this year. Once that review is complete, ABC News claims, then Cohen will be without counsel.

Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reported on Tuesday that Cohen has told friends that he expects to be arrested within a matter of days, although Cohen at the time publicly denied that was true.


Trump’s moral impoverishment is more evident than ever — here’s what that means for the rest of us

History News Network
13 Jun 2018 at 09:55 ET                  

Suggesting that President Trump lacks a “moral compass” is not a new criticism. But this charge requires further exploration. The fault is twofold. The first is a personal failing, the second a societal one. We shall examine both of these dimensions in some detail, but first several paragraphs about the moral compass of President Obama and the values of some of our outstanding previous presidents.

Such a compass is based on proper values. Before being elected to his first presidential term, Obama wrote in The Audacity of Hope,“I think that Democrats are wrong to run away from a debate about values,” and that the question of values should be at “the heart of our politics, the cornerstone of any meaningful debate about budgets and projects, regulations and policies.” He also wrote that empathy “is at the heart of my moral code, and it is how I understand the Golden Rule—not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.”

Besides empathy, Obama often mentioned the importance of such values as “honesty, fairness, humility, kindness, courtesy, and compassion,” as well as wisdom, which implies the ability to prioritize such values in order to best work for the common good. In Small Is Beautiful,E. F. Schumacher compared wisdom to the sun: “All subjects, no matter how specialised, are connected with a centre; they are like rays emanating from a sun.” Scholar Copthorne Macdonald noted in “The Centrality of Wisdom,” “values are at the heart of the matter.” He also wrote, “Wise values express themselves in wise attitudes and wise ways of being and functioning.” Among the wise values he mentions are humility, humor, creativity, love, compassion, empathy, courage, passion, patience, positivity, openness, self-awareness, self-discipline, tolerance, and truth.

After being elected president, Obama often stressed similar values, for example, the Golden Rule of doing “unto others as we would have them do unto us” (Cairo, 2009), tolerance (University of Michigan Commencement Speech, 2010),self-discipline, and empathy.

In stressing values, Obama followed the example of some of our outstanding presidents. George Washington in his Farewell Address of 1796 expressed the belief that it was “substantially true that virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government” and hoped that future government actions “be stamped with wisdom and virtue.” As Ron Chernow emphasizes in his Washington: A Life (2010), “Washington in victory [after the battle of Yorktown, 1781] was the picture of humility. In reporting to Congress, he deflected attention from himself.” And later, “It speaks to Washington’s humility that the greatest man of his age was laid to rest in a communal tomb where nobody could single out his grave or honor him separately.” Thomas Jefferson knew that “the wise know their weakness too well to assume infallibility; and he who knows most, knows best how little he knows.” In Lincoln: the Biography of a Writer (2010), Fred Kaplan emphasizes Lincoln’s great appreciation of “wisdom literature” and writers like Shakespeare and the poet Robert Burns. In addition to Lincoln’s compassion, two of the most prominent wisdom qualities were his humility and self-deprecating humor.

In his book on Leadership, presidential scholar and FDR biographer James MacGregor Burns notes that “hierarchies of values . . . undergird the dynamics of leadership.” He also quotes the abolitionist Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts who stated that “true politics” was simply “morals applied to public affairs.” In discussing FDR, Burns writes, “It was because Roosevelt’s fundamental values were deeply humane and democratic that he was able, despite his earlier compromises and evasions, to act [against Hitler] when action was imperative.” Such leadership reflects “considerations of purpose or value that may lie beyond calculations of personal advancement.”

Other scholars have noted other values that motivated FDR. Historian Douglas Brinkley, for example, has written of his strong love of nature, and Robert Dallek’s recent biography indicates that in addition to his ample political skills, FDR adhered to a variety of progressive values.

All of this stress on values is not meant to suggest that ethical considerations are always in the forefront of the mentioned presidents’ thinking, but as Burns points out, “Divorced from ethics, leadership is reduced to management and politics to mere technique.” And “the capacity of presidents to transcend their everyday role as bargainers and coalition builders and to confront the overriding moral and social issues facing the country gives rise not only to questions of principle, purpose, and ethics but to considerations of sheer presidential effectiveness.”

But enough about previous presidents. How about Trump’s moral deficiencies, his seeming lack of concern with moral values? The useful biography Trump Revealed: The Definitive Biography of the 45th President, by Washington Post journalists Michael Kranish and Marc Fisher, tells us much about Trump’s morals failings. It mentions his cheating on a wife, admitting to trying to “seduce a married woman,” and bragging about how he could grab women by the crotch—“when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” His biographers also point out his lack of any sense of business ethics and comment on his addiction “to publicity and recognition,” his “focus on getting his name onto products, buildings, and news stories.” The authors also indicate that neither in college nor later in his life did Trump evidence any interest in literature, history, philosophy, the arts, or culture, subjects that might have awakened some concern about values.

Trump’s appreciation of religion was mainly of the self-help type as preached by Protestant minister Norman Vincent Peale. Such preaching, in the words of historian Richard Hofstadter, reflected a “confusion of religion and self-advancement.” Trump considered Peale an important mentor, who taught him “to win by thinking only of the best outcomes.” (See here for more on Trump and religion.)

Since becoming president, Trump’s moral impoverishment has become more evident than ever, as demonstrated by a recent New York Times list of his “more egregious transgressions” or Politifact’s reproduction of his “false statements.”

Whereas scholars such as Schumacher and Macdonald(see above) thought that wisdom should coordinate and direct our other values and actions, and Obama stated that values should be at “the heart of our politics,”what directs Trump’s actions is his narcissism. A narcissism that leaves no room for wisdom or other moral values such as humility or empathy. As conservative columnist David Brooks has written of Trump: “He has no . . . capacity to learn. His vast narcissism makes him a closed fortress. He doesn’t know what he doesn’t know and he’s uninterested in finding out.”

Trump’s lack of a moral center certainly reflects his own personal failings, but the fact that we now have such a president also reflects our own societal failure. As a nation, we picked him. How and why did we select such a morally bankrupt person? And what does that selection say about our culture and us as a nation?

Yes, we have had great presidents like Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. And yes we have been a land of opportunity for many. And yes we honor Martin Luther King Jr. on his holiday, and twice elected Barack Obama, the son of a black African and white mother as our previous president.

But we also have a history of slavery, of racism, of killing and subjecting Native Americans, of McCarthyism, of imperialism in places like the Philippines, of overemphasizing the getting and spending of money, and of a fondness for glitzy entertainment.

In 1963 anthropologist Jules Henry declared that the two main “commandments” of our culture were “Create More Desire” and “Thou Shalt Consume.” In 1985, Neil Postman wrote in Amusing Ourselves to Death, “Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business, largely without protest or even much popular notice. The result is that we are a people on the verge of amusing ourselves to death.”

Trump reflects these more negative strains of our national life. Trump Revealed mentions some of Trump’s ethnic prejudice and racism—for example, complaining of “too many Italian and Irish students” while in college. In 1973 the Justice Department filed “one of the most significant racial bias cases of the era” against him and his father for their real estate dealings. It also mentions Trump’s closeness to lawyer Roy Cohn, one of Sen. Joe McCarthy’s chief aides. (Trump’s crassness and frequent anti-intellectual outbursts remind us of McCarthy.)

Shortly after Trump’s election in late 2016, I wrote of “the pursuit of monetary gain and pleasure which is often linked with our capitalism and consumer culture,” and added that “if you were pressed to name one individual who most personifies” that spirit, it would be Trump.He also reflects Postman’s fear that “our politics, religion, news . . . have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business.” Our fondness for glitzy entertainment has helped produce an entertainer-in-chief rather than an honorable and decent president.

Trump is fond of the rags-to-riches American myth of “Algerism” (after the novels of Horatio Alger who depicted it), which historian Christopher Lasch called “the dominant ideology of American politics” during the late-nineteenth-century’s Gilded Age. (Lasch added: “Failure to advance, according to the [Alger] mythology of opportunity, argues moral incapacity on the part of individuals or, in a version even more implausible, on the part of disadvantaged ethnic and racial minorities.”) Trump’s simplistic view of societies “winners” and “losers” has been strongly affected by this myth.

Trump’s America is like that of his business interests, a land of real estate wheeling and dealing, of casinos, of beauty pageants, of pro wrestling, of reality TV (like his The Apprentice or the earlier show on which he appeared, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous). It is an America that has bestowed fame on big-mouth media personalities like talk-radio’s Rush Limbaugh and Fox’s Bill O’Reilly.

Trump’s America is also one with little respect for scientific or other truth (consider all the falsehoods spewed by Trump and his EPA). Moreover, in its unfettering of restraints meant to protect average Americans from greed and environmental damage, it harkens back to the Gilded Age, a time before twentieth century Progressivism attempted to constrain and supplement capitalism so that our government and laws paid more attention to the public good.

If we are ever to rid ourselves of Trumpism and whatever noxious odors it leaves behind, we need not only a more honorable president, but an emphasis on more honorable values such as wisdom, humility, compassion, empathy, tolerance, and truth. We need to cherish them in our education, in our culture, and in our politics. Only then can we dream of making America great.

Walter G. Moss is a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Michigan University and Contributing Editor of HNN. For a list of all of Moss’s recent books and online publications, click here.


GOP’s Bob Corker erupts on the Senate floor — and mocks Republican who are afraid of Trump

Noor Al-Sibai
Raw Story
13 Jun 2018 at 16:07 ET                  

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) on Tuesday afternoon blew up on the floor of the Senate at his colleagues who are too afraid of the president to bring tough legislation to the upper chamber of Congress.

He began his tirade by noting that in the past year and a half, under the leadership of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the chamber had brought very few amendments to the floor. Instead, he suggested, his fellow Republicans keep blocking bills out of fear of how President Donald Trump may view them.

“We’ve been here a year and a half and because senators, United States senators that are elected by the people in their state,don’t want to cast a tough vote, they block everybody from voting,” he charged.

Last week, Corker introduced an amendment that would counter some of Trump’s recent tariffs, and the senator said that although he believes a vast majority of Republicans agree with him, they’re too afraid to vote on it. Instead, the bill known as the Corker Amendment has been blocked by his fellow Republicans.

“I heard the senator from Texas, the senior senator from Texas, saying the other day, ‘Well, gosh, we might upset the president,'” Corker recounted, referencing Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the Senate’s number two Republican. “We might upset the president of the United States before the midterms. So, gosh, we can’t vote on the Corker Amendment because we’re taking, rightly so, the responsibilities that we have to deal with tariffs and revenues.”

“We can’t do that because we’d be upsetting the president, the president of the United States,” he continued.  “I can’t believe it.”

Corker claimed that a lot of Senate Republicans would vote for his amendment restricting the president’s tariff powers if it came to a floor vote, but they continued to block it.

“No, no, no, gosh, we might poke the bear, is the language I’ve been hearing in the hallways,” the Tennessee Republican said. “We might poke the bear. The president might get upset with us as United States senators if we vote on the Corker Amendment, so we’re going to do everything we can to block it.”

Watch  via CNN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld_RzqlXWN0

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« Last Edit: Jun 13, 2018, 09:16 AM by Rad » Logged
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« Reply #934 on: Jun 13, 2018, 06:16 AM »

Trump and Kim meet, shake — and lie through their teeth

by Kathleen Parker Opinion writer
June 13 2018

Well, it happened: The president and the dictator met, shook hands, looked each other in the eye, smiled for the cameras — and lied through their teeth.

The visuals, we witnessed; the lies we infer — from experience, history and redundant prescience.

But the summit was definitively historic. Let us count the ways.

Donald Trump, the unlikeliest president in U.S. history, traveled to Singapore to meet with the leader of North Korea, which no other American president has done (for excellent reasons), and hand-delivered to Kim Jong Un — an untrustworthy, murdering, torturing, enslaving, nuclearized global menace who starves his people and regularly threatens the United States and its allies — what he covets most.

Trump gave him power.

It’s true, as you say, Mr. President, that you’ve done what no other would. You’ve traded American authority and legitimized a petty provocateur. For what? For the possibility, as you suggested, of a beachfront hotel overlooking the Yellow Sea, the Sea of Japan or, in the event of a peaceful reunification with South Korea, the East China Sea?

But for the minor matter of trademarks, Ivanka’s swimsuits are sure to be a hit.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d love to be mistaken. I’m not lobbying for failure, but there’s little reason to believe that Kim will honor Trump’s expectations — or vice versa. The so-called agreement includes nothing substantive to justify optimism — no defining terms of what denuclearization would look like, no outline for verification, not even a timeline.

All we have is Trump’s assurance that Kim is a really good guy, which former NBA star Dennis Rodman already told us; that Kim is “very talented,” meaning God-knows-what, though certainly he’s a visionary when it comes to coiffure. Lest we overlook Rodman’s imperious role in North Korean relations, his presence in Singapore wearing a PotCoin T-shirt is being credited for the cryptocurrency’s sudden surge.

As though June 12, 2018, needed a cartoonish flourish.

Thus far, it appears that the United States is allegedly giving more than it’s allegedly getting. In addition to Trump agreeing to end what he called the “provocative” and “tremendously expensive” military exercises in the region, he also mentioned removing some 30,000 U.S. troops from South Korea, delivering a win to China and, seemingly, surprising U.S. military leadership in Korea.

The American command “has received no updated guidance on execution or cessation of training exercises, to include this fall’s scheduled Ulchi Freedom Guardian,” U.S. Forces Korea spokeswoman Lt. Col. Jennifer Lovett said in a statement.

Translation: What did he just say?!

The devil, as always, is in the propaganda — a four-minute video, styled like a movie trailer, that Trump showed Kim in which the two leaders are presented as world saviors. And the art of the deal in this case is in keeping with Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder. He views the world through the lens of his own self-interest.

Thus, Trump tried to tempt Kim with his real estate developer’s perspective. Explaining to reporters later, he said: “They have great beaches. You see that whenever they are exploding their cannons into the ocean. I said, ‘Boy look at that view.’ Wouldn’t that make a great condo? . . . I said, ‘Instead of doing that, you could have the best hotels in the world.’ ”

There’s undeniable logic to this approach, even if it could benefit Trump directly. Aggressive nuke-mongering and tourism tend not to mix well. A great, big, beautiful hotel or condo building — or dozens — bearing the name Trump could help resuscitate North Korea’s lifeless economy. And the rest of the world could exhale.

While some nations have issued congratulatory post-summit statements at absolutely no risk to themselves, others such as Iran were more circumspect. Said Iranian spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht: “We don’t know what type of person the North Korean leader is negotiating with. It is not clear that he Trump would not cancel the agreement before returning home” — a caveat not lacking in merit.

Meanwhile, the International Atomic Energy Agency stands at the ready to begin verification activities as warranted. Trump, too, has promised to stay on top of the deal, telling reporters: “We’re going to have to check it. We will check it. Total and complete.”

That is just super awesome, Mr. President.

And if the deal should collapse any minute now?

Trump is prepared for that, too.

“I may be wrong,” he said to reporters. “I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, ‘Hey I was wrong.’ I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that, but I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”

Indeed. Total and complete, exploding cannons and all.

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« Reply #935 on: Jun 13, 2018, 06:40 AM »

Reporters thought this video was North Korea propaganda. It came from the White House

by Avi Selk
June 13 2018
WA Post

Before the news conference President Trump held at the end of his June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, a propaganda-style film was played. (The Washington Post)

Reporters crowded into a Singapore auditorium Tuesday, expecting President Trump to walk out and announce the results of his historic meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Suddenly, two huge screens on either side of the empty podium came to life. Soaring music boomed over the speakers, and the reporters were bombarded with a montage portraying North Korea as some sort of paradise.

Golden sunrises, gleaming skylines and high-speed trains. Children skipping through Kim Il Sung square in Pyongyang. North Korean flags fluttering between images of Egyptian pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Lincoln Memorial.

In a split-screen shot, Kim Jong Un waved to an adoring crowd while President Trump stood beside him with his thumb in the air. The pair appeared over and over again, like running mates in a campaign video.

The film went on like this for more than four minutes, with brief interludes of missiles, soldiers and warships interrupting the pageantry. Some journalists, unable to understand the Korean-language narration, assumed they were watching one of Pyongyang’s infamous propaganda films. “What country are we in?” asked a reporter from the filing center.

    They are playing a propaganda video before Trump presser. Not kidding. What is happening??!!
    — Andrew Beatty (@AndrewBeatty) June 12, 2018

But then the video looped, playing this time in English. And then Trump walked onto the stage and confirmed what some had already realized.

The film was not North Korean propaganda. It had been made in America, by or on the orders of his White House, for the benefit of Kim.

“I hope you liked it,” Trump told the reporters. “I thought it was good. I thought it was interesting enough to show. ... And I think he loved it.”

The crowd sounded skeptical. Some wondered if Trump had not, in fact, just provided U.S.-sanctioned propaganda to one of the country’s oldest adversaries.

But as the president explained it, the video was more like an elevator pitch. It was the type of glitzy production that Trump might have once used to persuade investors to finance his hotels, and now hoped could persuade one of the most repressive regimes in the world to disarm its nuclear weapons and end nearly 70 years of international isolation and militant hostility to the United States.

On Tuesday evening, Trump tweeted a link to the video, for all to see.

    Here is the video, “A Story of Opportunity” that I shared with Kim Jong-un at the #SingaporeSummit
    ➡️https://t.co/43oOci4jvo pic.twitter.com/xBKFkDLtj7
    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 12, 2018

The nearly five-minute movie even has its own Hollywood-style vanity logo: “A Destiny Pictures Production,” though a film company by the same name in Los Angeles denied any involvement in making it, and the White House has not yet responded to questions about it.

“Of those alive today, only a small number will leave a lasting impact,” the narrator said near the beginning, as alternating shots of Trump, Kim and North Korean pageantry flashed on the screen. “And only a very few will make decisions or take actions to renew their homeland, or change the course of history.”

The message was clear: Kim had a decision to make. Then the film progressed from grim black-and-white shots of the United States’s 1950s-era war with North Korea into a montage of rose-colored parades and gold-tinted clouds.

“The past doesn’t have to be the future,” the narrator said. “What if a people that share a common and rich heritage can find a common future?”

The same technique repeated even more dramatically a minute later in the film, when the footage seemed to melt into a horror montage of war planes and missiles bearing down on North Korean cities — much like the apocalyptic propaganda videos Pyongyang had produced just a few months ago, when Kim and Trump sounded as if they were on the brink of nuclear war.

But in Trump’s film, the destruction rewound itself. The missiles flew back into to their launchers, and a science fiction-like version of North Korea took its place — one of crane-dotted skylines, crowded highways, computerized factories and drones, all presided over by a waving, grinning Kim, accompanied always by Trump. “Two men; two leaders; one destiny.”

“You can have medical breakthroughs, an abundance of resources, innovative technology and new discoveries,” the narrator said, the footage more and more resembling a Hollywood movie trailer as it built to its finale:

“Featuring President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un in a meeting to remake history,” the narrator concluded, as Korean words flashed on a black background: “It is going to become a reality?”

    Haven't seen this before: Before POTUS comes out for press conference, WH shows a Michael Bay-esque video showing Trump and Kim, military weapons, bombs
    — Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) June 12, 2018

The reporters had many questions.

“Do you now see Kim Jong Un as an equal?” asked a Time magazine correspondent.

“In what way?” Trump asked.

“You just showed a video that showed you and Kim Jong Un on equal footing, and discussing the future of the country.”

President Trump spoke to reporters in Singapore after meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12. Here are key moments. (Sarah Parnass /The Washington Post)

The president may have misunderstood the question, as he referred in his answer to his closed-door talks and a few carefully negotiated photo ops with Kim — not the U.S.-made video that presented the totalitarian autocrat as a hero.

“If I have to say I’m sitting on a stage with Chairman Kim and that gets us to save 30 million lives — it could be more than that — I’m willing to sit on a stage, I’m willing to travel to Singapore, very proudly,” Trump said.

“Are you concerned the video you just showed could be used by Kim as propaganda, to show him as ... ”

Trump cut the question off. “No, I’m not concerned at all. We can use that video for other countries.”

The president was more talkative when discussing how Kim had reacted to the video, which Trump had presumably played for him during a brief, private meeting hours earlier.

“We didn’t have a big screen like you have the luxury of having,” Trump said. “We didn’t need it, because we had it on cassette, uh, an iPad.

“And they played it. About eight of their representatives were watching it, and I thought they were fascinated by it. I thought it was well done. I showed it to you because that’s the future. I mean, that could very well be the future. And the other alternative is just not a very good alternative. It’s just not good.”

International reviews of the video were decidedly mixed.

“Schlocky” — Vanity Fair.

“Odd.” — The Canadian Broadcasting Corp.

“One observer dismissed it as ‘a word salad topped with gratuitous appeasement of a monstrous regime,’ " the South China Morning Post reported.

The Daily Mail noted that as the narrator described North Korea’s glorious future of  technology and international investment, the video showed stock footage of the Miami Beach shoreline, not far from a Trump-owned hotel. The Spectator called the whole sequence “real estate politik” — which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“The text reads like some godawful martial-arts movie trailer crossed with a corporate advertisement for an ambitious construction project,” Freddy Gray wrote for the British newspaper. “But clearly, in some peculiar way, it works.”

The president acknowledged that some of the film’s imagery may seem far-fetched. North Korea is mired in poverty, internationally isolated, and has been mismanaged for decades by a family of dictators — Kim, his father and grandfather.

“That was done at the highest level of future development,” Trump told the reporters in Singapore, as if he had just offered Kim a multitiered vacation package. “I told him, you may not want this. You may want to do a much smaller version. ... You may not want that, with the trains and everything.”

He waved his hands. “You know, with super everything, to the top. It’s going to be up to them."

And then, in his usual style, Trump was thinking out loud about the “great condos” that might one day be built on the “great beaches” of North Korea.

“I explained it,” he said. “You could have the best hotels in the world. Think of it from the real estate perspective.”

As the screens above Trump emphasized, he certainly had.

Anne Gearan, Min Joo Kim and Philip Rucker contributed to this report.

Watch this: <iframe width='480' height='290' scrolling='no' src='https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/c/embed/c09d62b2-6e2a-11e8-b4d8-eaf78d4c544c' frameborder='0' webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe>

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« Reply #936 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:07 AM »

Scientists are still decoding the mysterious knotted strings Incans used to record complex information

14 Jun 2018 at 10:43 ET                   

The Inka Empire (1400-1532 CE) is one of few ancient civilisations that speaks to us in multiple dimensions. Instead of words or pictograms, the Inkas used khipus – knotted string devices – to communicate extraordinarily complex mathematical and narrative information. But, after more than a century of study, we remain unable to fully crack the code of the khipus. The challenge rests not in a lack of artifacts – over 1,000 khipus are known to us today – but in their variety and complexity. We confront tens of thousands of knots tied by different people, for different purposes and in different regions of the empire. Cracking the code amounts to finding a pattern in history’s knotted haystack.

Using locally available materials such as camelid fleece and cotton, the khipukamayuqs (Quechua for ‘knot-makers/animators’) encoded administrative data such as census figures and tax allocation in the twisted strings of these ancient spreadsheets. The Inka bureaucrats used these data to keep tabs on the largest empire in the pre-Columbian Americas. We have known for about a century that the accounting khipus follow a base-10 knot scheme (imagine an abacus made out of string). However, these quantitative khipus account for only about two-thirds of the samples remaining today. The remaining third of these devices – the so-called narrative khipus – appear to contain encoded non-numerical, narrative information, including names, stories and even ancient philosophies. For those who love puzzles, the narrative khipus are a godsend.

What is so radical about wrapping numbers in knots? Consider how we typically learn to count. In school, counting begins with objects – wooden blocks, Lego pieces or other toys. Addition and subtraction involve making piles of these objects or tallying with our fingers. Then fingers and blocks turn into two-dimensional formulas, as students are taught a series of mathematical figures, commonly called ‘ciphers’. As a result, we can lose our ability to appreciate numbers as being represented by anything other than these abstract written symbols. Think about it: is there anything about the symbol ‘7’ that communicates the meaning of seven? By contrast, the Inka khipu code for seven was a special type of knot, made by wrapping the string around itself to make a series of loops – seven, to be exact.

Then there are the narrative khipus. These might have used numbers as qualitative identifiers for people or ideas – consider how we are each identified by a phone number, social security number or street address. This raises an important question: when numbers can signify quantities, identities or some combination of both, how do we know what category of number we are looking at? In other words, might a knot that signals the number ‘3’ reflect a count of 3 pesos, an identifier of a local villager or perhaps an emerging postal-code system? Some scholars have even suggested that the knots themselves encoded syllabic language.

The search for a narrative ‘Rosetta khipu’ amounts to finding a match between the text of a Spanish document and the knots of twisted strings. Given these complexities, how confident can we be in our ability to learn about the narrative khipus, when they are so radically different from our understandings of communication? We are trained from an early age that mathematics and language are two discrete worlds. The Inkas, however, collapsed them into a three-dimensional construct – an achievement of civilisational complexity in the form of narrative cords.

This complexity makes it surprising that the Inkas are often remembered for what they lacked, when compared with our modern society. South America is the only continent (besides Antarctica) on which no civilisation invented a system of graphical writing for more than 10,000 years after the first people arrived. We are yet to confirm a pre-conquest event knotted in contemporaneous records. The Inkas have even earned a spot on the list of original ‘pristine’ civilisations – commonly identified as Egypt, Shang China, Mesopotamia, the Mayas and the Inkas – despite being the only nation that never invented the wheel, markets or writing.

The danger in this view is judging the past through the lens of the present. It is easy to view the past as a simpler time, where the Inkas never stumbled upon the wonders of modern communication. The ‘despite’ qualifier hides a troublesome assumption of our own superiority: what follows ‘despite’ but a list of our own, modern comforts of life (the wheel, markets, etc)? The khipus might seem bizarre to us, but the Inkas, who were the inheritors of a long tradition of weaving with cotton and camelid yarns, were unique and highly creative – not underdeveloped – in their approach to documenting language. Pencil and paper is not the only road to progress. In fact, the use of knotted cords was an important adaptation to living in the Andes, one of the most challenging geographies on Earth. Chaskis (Inka messengers) navigated the steep slopes of the Andes on foot, carrying one of the world’s most durable and portable envelopes: a khipu draped over each shoulder. The next time you try to retrieve your mail in a rainstorm, consider the ingenuity of the western hemisphere’s oldest postal service – a postcard you can hang out to dry.

Just as ancient texts help us to understand other early societies, detailed study of the khipus illuminates the intentions of the people who tied these knots so many centuries ago. In fact, not only are the khipus mathematically complex, but they also reveal to us a civilisation of kaleidoscopic complexity that mirrors our own in uncanny ways.

For the Inkas, taxes were an ongoing obligation, and assessed at different times throughout the year. The khipus constitute one of the world’s oldest repositories of tax data, linking names, tax brackets and household information through knots. Imagine if at any time, an IRS agent might show up at your doorstep to check your compliance with each and every part of the tax code? Under the Inka empire, and especially after the Spanish conquest in 1532, this was a day-to-day reality. In fact, we recently wrote about a rediscovered set of khipus from coastal Peru that was dedicated to this very goal. Spanish administrators in post-conquest Peru, in efforts to subdue and control the population, compelled the khipukamayuqs to narrate their khipus – cord-by-cord – while a scribe recorded the hidden meaning of the knotted strings. This process created a pair of linked archives: one in paper, the other in knotted strings. Our recent studies suggest a path toward deciphering a set of such taxation khipus, moving us closer to a much-anticipated Rosetta moment.

Big government was a staple of both pre- and post-conquest Andean life. Khipus and censuses were methods by which the Spanish kept track not only of people’s taxes but also of where they belonged in society – one’s clan, social rank, occupation and tax contribution – all recorded together in knots. This information was not private; many censuses involved corralling an entire village in a central square and entering their individual data into khipus, person-by-person, in a powerful and very public display of force by the conquering government. Recent efforts to record khipu data demonstrate the relative ease of converting khipus to modern spreadsheets, and the effectiveness of these early accounting methods. In some instances, khipus actually contained tax-tracking information – in checks-and-balances accounting – that is just as accurate as our modern systems.

Mathematics involved more than just arithmetic for the Inkas. The khipus present us with numbers in three dimensions – their knots represent quantities through a complex combination of shape, spin direction and relative position. For the Inkas, numbers were an integral part of social life: Spanish records tell us that the Inkas placed numbers in space, their three-dimensional number line conceiving of quantity as distance from the body. All too often, we reserve maths problems for school or puzzles on long flights. The khipus confront us with the challenge of cracking one of the sudokus of the ancient world, an advanced puzzle filled with both numbers and words.

It is tempting to view the march of progress as an uphill climb to the present moment, and the wheel, markets and writing as hurdles cleared in the arduous trek toward advanced civilisation. Modern-day customs are the lens through which we view the past, defining success – our own condition – with a ‘despite’ clause for others who don’t follow our own path. In reality, the Inkas’ 3D records are intimidating because they are so radically outside the comfort zone of modern society and communications technologies. The Inkas managed to centralise and collapse mathematics, language, accounting and history into a durable and portable recording device. Their khipus are a perfect example of why it is dangerous to judge the past through the lens of the present. If ancient peoples were ‘primitive’, then we must be as well – the Inkas and the narrative khipus have, after all, managed to baffle us so far.Aeon counter – do not remove

By Manuel Medrano & Gary Urton

This article was originally published at Aeon and has been republished under Creative Commons.

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« Reply #937 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:10 AM »

Global Carbon Emissions on the Rise Again Due to Coal Comeback


Global carbon dioxide emissions from energy use increased 1.6 percent in 2017 following three years of stagnation, according to a new report from British oil giant BP.

The analysis, published Wednesday, further emphasizes worldwide failure to meet the goals struck by the Paris agreement to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Spencer Dale, the BP's chief economist, told the Guardian that the globe's emissions rise was "slightly worrying" and a "pretty big backward step."

"It suggests to me we are not on a path to the Paris climate goals," he added.

The report, called the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, also pointed out that the world's fuel mix has "strikingly" not changed in the last 20 years.

"I am more worried by the lack of progress in the power sector over the past 20 years, than by the pickup in carbon emissions last year," Dale noted to the Guardian.

The report revealed that the increase in greenhouse gas emissions was driven by a 2.2 percent increase in global energy demand last year, as well as increased coal consumption for the first time in four years, led by growing demand in India and China.

"Together, China and India accounted for nearly half of the increase in global carbon emissions," a press release for the study stated. "EU emissions were also up (1.5 percent) with just Spain accounting for 44 percent of the increase in EU emissions."

In contrast, emissions declines were led by the U.S. (-0.5 percent)—the third year in a row that the nation's emissions declined, although the fall was the smallest over those three years. The UK and Denmark reported the lowest carbon emissions in their history.

While renewable power generation grew by 17 percent, with wind and solar driving much of that growth, the success of clean energy was clouded by the world's increased appetite for fossil fuels. Oil demand grew by 1.8 percent and natural gas consumption up 3 percent and production up 4 percent, BP found.

"2017 was a year where structural forces in the energy market continued to push forward the transition to a lower carbon economy, but where cyclical factors have reversed or slowed some of the gains from prior years," said Bob Dudley, BP group chief executive, in a statement. "These factors, combined with rising demand for energy, has resulted in a material increase in carbon emissions following three years of little or no growth."

"As we have said in our Energy Outlook, our Technology Outlook and now our Statistical Review, the power system must decarbonize," he said. "We continue to believe that gains in the power sector are the most efficient way to drive down carbon emissions in coming decades."

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« Reply #938 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:13 AM »

Depression and the Healing Desert

By Jana Richman

In a dark time, the eye begins to see.

Theodore Roethke

It slips in quietly. A hint of terseness marks his voice, an opaque film covers his blue eyes, his face flushes and its lines deepen. His 6'4" frame droops toward the floor as if he's ashamed to drape his sorry self over it, and he tries to creep from the room unnoticed. It hurts him to be seen.

We share the only bed in our house, but he curls close to the edge, his face in the moonlight twisted and consternated. I want to reach out with a soothing touch, but I have learned not to. When he is deep in his dark world, a simple touch will send a startle response through his bones. He will burst from the bed as if facing a knife- wielding attacker and his wild eyes will be locked on me.

When I wake in the morning to find his side of the bed cold, I search for signs: a spoon in the sink indicates coffee was made; a creaking floor in his upstairs office indicates movement. From the signs, I can measure the depth of his depression and the probable length of its stay. No signs at all, and I feel as if I've been stalked into a dead-end alley.

I once believed myself capable of empathetic greatness, a belief that's been gutted and redesigned like a nineteenth-century farmhouse. The crumbling bricks still hold, but the interior structure bears little resemblance to the original.

Steve was fifty when we met; I was forty-eight. Our future held no golden wedding anniversary; silver was dubious. Such reckonings cut short the discovery period of romance enjoyed by the young. We acknowledged our love for each other, and, almost in the same breath, we acknowledged our impediments: Steve's depression, my anxiety.

Having anxiety in our anxious culture is like wearing a white T-shirt—it's not conspicuous—so I had minimal awareness of its scope. And being wholly naïve about depression, I shrugged it off in the name of love. With less caution than warranted, Steve and I joined hands and stepped into the abyss.

Anxiety and depression share commonalities. In our case, the emotional memories of each are decades—maybe generations—old, with no faces, no bodies, no specific points of origin. These similarities generate compassion between us but not necessarily understanding. And distinct differences make us ill-suited for sharing a life.

Anxiety gushes out, soliciting reassurance and relief; depression pulls in and sets up barriers. Anxious people want to process, often in a desperate, frenetic way. But insisting that a depressed person process his current state is worse than futile; it is merciless. Working together, depression and anxiety construct a near impermeable trap. When I sense Steve's depression, I churn in angst. When Steve senses my anxiety, he drops deeper.

Steve's depression is episodic, triggered in a moment that takes him down. And in that moment, life is brusquely shifted, shut down for an indefinable period. When I first saw it, although I had been forewarned, I had no idea what I was seeing. The shift in his physical appearance alone pulled me up short, and the abrupt change in personality seemed like a subterfuge. And for many years I treated it as such, demanding that he stop and explain himself.

He retreats into his impenetrable misery behind the closed door of his office. I walk to keep my body occupied while my emotions lurch from confusion to sadness to anger to desperation. I return to a quiet house, no traces of movement. I search the bookshelves and Internet for comfort. So much advice—all of it familiar, none of it useful.

Two days go by without verification of life. I stew and listen and watch. I dissect the days and hours leading up to the moment it slithered in. I pinpoint the trigger and rewrite the script. I chant a whispered mantra: This will end.But I worry that it won't end, that we'll be here on our respective sides of a cheap, hollow door three weeks, three months, three years from now.

On the third day, the door opens and I jump to attention. He slouches down the stairs without making eye contact, looking ten years older than he looked four days prior. I offer to make soup, I suggest a hike, I extend bookshelf advice in a cheerful voice tinged with urgency. I speak to him as if he doesn't understand his own mind. He goes back upstairs and shuts the door.

Steve embodies light and dark in their extremities. The dark runs deep and murky, but radical light runs parallel. I fear the dark will snuff out the light and destroy him, destroy us. He assures me that will never happen, and like a religious skeptic teetering on the edges, I work to keep the faith. I want to pry him apart, separate light from dark. I want the model with the personalized options, not the package deal, but his GPS is already installed. Ripping it out would leave him lighter, yes, but also deformed, shrunken, misshapen. Much of his beauty comes out of the shadow. His gentleness, his patience, his wisdom, his passion—all flow from having dwelt in the tender place of despair. I deeply understand the truth of this. Still, I want it to be easier—for him, yes, but mostly for me. He knows this darkness, and he oddly draws strength from its familiarity, as if it constitutes some sort of sacred ritual. I cower in its presence.

On the fourth day, I wake to find the office door open and him gone. I breathe a sigh of relief for a morning without his dark presence and say a small prayer to the gods he worships: redrock canyons and sagebrush flats. He has gone to the desert.

I walk out to the garage to see what's not there: a cot, a sleeping bag, a five-gallon water jug. All good signs. He will spend nights under a dark sky, and when the sun rouses him, he will walk between redrock walls, bumping against them in his rawness. He will find a flat run of slickrock to lie upon, and he will stay until desert light finds a fissure in his constructed shield. Then he'll come back to me.

Shortly after I met him, Steve said something that would become a refrain in our relationship: I need to go to the desert. We met in Tucson and lived in Salt Lake City, so technically we had always been in a desert, but that's not what he meant. He sought a desert free of humans and their debris, full of light, where he could dwell undisturbed for an extended period of time.

Having grown up in Utah's West Desert, I, too, have an appreciation for such places, but I initially thought him prone to hyperbole. Imprudently clinging to the popular view that all power lies within, I equated Steve's stated need to the exaggerated notions of a teenager needing a new iPhone. But after twelve years of inadvertent research, my flippancy has waned.

On our wedding day, Steve promised to always rescue himself—it was written into the vows. In my most anxious moments, I have extracted the promise from him again and again, but the last time I did was in the autumn of 2013, which was when I, at long last, understood that he has only one fail—safe rescue: the desert.

It was our worst year together, high anxiety and deep depression, each tightening the knots of the other. We futilely tugged from opposite ends for eight months. In the fall, I suggested a weekend backpack on the Escalante River, and he nodded his agreement. But on the day we were supposed to leave, he couldn't rally the energy to abide my company, having, no doubt, sensed my desperate reach for relief. After he shut the upstairs door, I sat amid the mess of freeze-dried food packets and cried. Then I packed.

I would like to say I left the house quietly, but I didn't. I breached the sanctity of the closed door and made a dramatic, sobbing speech and exit. I no longer remember the words, but I remember the cruelty behind them. I'm sure I demanded some sort of promise or explanation that he could not possibly give. I remember his horrified face as I loaded my pain onto his.

I drove fifteen miles to the trailhead shaking with the kind of generalized rage that has no receptacle. Only after hoisting the pack and splashing through the knee-high, sun-warmed water for the first of many river crossings did I acknowledge that I had never backpacked alone, never spent a night out there by myself. It was an easy three-mile hike upriver to the Sand Creek confluence where I planned to camp, and the physical risk was minimal. But the sun drops early in the river gorge, and the long stretch of night ahead played on my nerves.

Righteous indignation propelled me forward, a feeling of something having been thrust upon me that I did not deserve. I slogged through deep sand, stumbled often, and expended a great deal of energy to gain little ground. Had I lifted my eyes from the trail, I might have been awed by Escalante Natural Bridge, a sturdy, flat-topped, deep red and brown arch that spans a side canyon like a train trestle. Had I lifted my eyes, my heart may have been lightened—or at least distracted—by the Indian domicile ruins on a ledge next to a wall of seven-hundred-year-old petroglyphs. But I did not lift my eyes. I rounded the bend in the river that alerted me to the confluence without acknowledging the painted red snake on the slickrock I skirted, without pondering its symbolism, although it may have been as relevant to me as it was to its creator. Rebirth? Resurrection? Initiation?

I dropped into a hole that brought the river to my upper thighs before climbing the sandy, steep bank on hands and knees. Knowing that seeking ant-free ground would be futile, I pitched my tent among the small creatures under a cluster of cottonwoods and cooked dinner before the sun went down. Then I crossed the cold, shin-high waters of Sand Creek and set my Therm-a-Rest chair on a partially dry, flat rock in the last splice of sunlight. I faced a soaring, creamsicle-orange wall with white streaks—as if someone had poured a bucket of Clorox from the top every few yards—and waited for darkness to descend. But it never did.

The wall, a magnificent domed rock bestowed with runs of creamy smoothness from calving, was the last in the canyon to lose light. It presided over the celestial ceremony of sundown—quieting the whistling birds, hushing the croaking ravens, piloting a change of temperature and a kettle of turkey vultures on a gust. As the diurnal fell silent, whispering grasses and rustling river willows filled the void. On my right, a tranquil spring wallpapered the Navajo sandstone with ivy, ferns, and columbine before trickling through a crack in many straggling fountains at mouth level and leaving the rocks below it covered in spongy lime-green moss.

Sand Creek approached me from behind a grassy bend, ran over slickrock and sand, bumped against, and parted for, volcanic boulders, passed me close enough to splash my left arm and leg, gathered spring water from the right, and then disappeared around an eastern bend to meet the river. Near and distant, peach and rose, honey and ginger colored walls, polished to a high sheen by desert varnish and pockmarked by wind and water, surrounded me on all sides, sharing the warmth of the sun.

As the reigning wall lost its light, the hanging garden lost its shimmer in the shadows, the creek gurgled, the spring trickled, and a warm breeze blew. I sat very still, every sense heightened—and pacified. Tranquility edged in like rainwater through a crack in sandstone. After a while, I could no longer discern my feet on the rock or sand on my skin. The place integrated my presence as if I were natural to it, and I felt the whole of it.

I sat. I had been breathing shallowly for many months, holding myself together with a pinched brow and rigid muscles. I breathed. My shoulders fell. Fear and dread oozed from my body and was cleanly washed away by Sand Creek—as if it were no problem at all—and delivered to the river where it would flow out of reach. Shhhh, the place whispered. Be still.

Moonlight climbed sandstone walls bringing with it the thought of Steve's refrain: I need to go to the desert. I had heard the urgency in his voice, but I refused to hear the truth in his words. I had scoffed at the idea that a place could do for him what I could not—that a place could hold him, soothe him, reach into the depths of that darkness and pull him out. And now, here I sat, held by the place. And here was the thing that left me dumbfounded: the place had been here all along. Through many months of homebound angst, through my desperation and rage, through my vain perseverance, the place was here—flowing, buzzing, being.

That night on the slickrock bank of Sand Creek, I understood what I had been doing to Steve for twelve years. I had done what every well-meaning person in his life—every lover, every friend—had done. I had tried to fix him. And in doing so, I had delivered a sharp message: I cannot love you this way.

The next morning, I was sitting on a log, swiping ants off my legs and sipping a cup of tea, when Steve walked into camp. He was not entirely tall and steady, but he was upright. He smiled weakly but genuinely, and I thought if ever there were an element natural in its desert environment, there it stands.

We walked up Sand Creek without conversation, each sensitive to the other's fragility. When we reached a sandy beach on the water's edge, we sat facing a hollowed-out red wall. I have a gift for you, I said. He turned toward me, blue eyes tired but clear. I told him I would no longer participate in his depression; I would no longer view it as a problem to be fixed. I am giving you the gift of your own depression, I told him. He looked at me for a long moment, and when he started breathing again, vestiges of apprehension drained from his face. Thank you, he said.

I have since kept my promise. It turns out, I can love the whole of him, and doing so has settled something in me. I don't hold any notion that he will one day be cured of depression, and I no longer seek that. But removing myself as custodian of his state of being has given us space without shame. The chasm is shallower, more light filters in. In turn, I am released from my own shaking hellhole of onus and distress.

And then there's the desert, right here, where it's always been—gushing, illuminating, revealing.

From Nature Love Medicine: Essays on Wildness and Wellness, edited by Thomas Lowe Fleischner. Published by Torrey House Press, www.torreyhouse.org

Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

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« Reply #939 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:16 AM »

Take Climate Action By Transforming Your Lawn With Edible Landscaping


What have you done for me lately?

The one-and-only Janet Jackson once asked that question of a bad boyfriend. But lately, we've been wondering the very same thing about a far less obvious offender—our front lawn. We water it and then water it some more. We give it a trim to keep it looking super fresh, and we do it all over again a week later. When the dog digs up a spot, we patch it right up.

According to a collaborative 2015 study by scientists from NASA, NOAA, Colorado State University and the universities of Colorado and Montana, about 163,812 square kilometers of the American landscape is "cultivated with some form of lawn … an area three times larger than that of any irrigated crop.

Now, imagine the possibilities if we put even some of that wide open space—an area roughly the size of the state of Wisconsin—to better use for the planet. That's right, by simply rethinking your own outdoor space and incorporating a few new landscaping techniques, you can do your part to fight for a healthier future for our fragile planet.

What is an Edible Landscape?

Edible landscapes are just like traditional ornamental landscapes—with one important twist. While they follow many of the same design principles, edible landscapes favor plants like herbs, vegetables and fruit bushes and trees over comparatively "unproductive" decorative plants.

They allow homeowners to enjoy food crops while keeping their space aesthetically pleasing. And much like ornamental landscaping, you can scale up or down to meet your needs.

What are the Benefits of Edible Landscapes?

Environmentally, grass is great–like really great–and of course, the kiddos and the pups need a nice, open place to play. But it's not the only thing you can do with yard space–and here's where edible landscapes come in.

Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z2cJAh2-RrQ

As any gent in crisp white New Balance sneakers will tell you, a large lawn requires frequent tending to remain attractive. Which takes energy.

By converting grassy yard space into an edible landscape, you can dial down the amount of energy (and all that comes with it ... vroom vroom goes the gassed-up mower) needed to keep it looking great.

Edible landscapes don't just prevent carbon going into the atmosphere—they also help take it out. Replacing turf with larger, often perennial plants like trees, bushes, and vines removes more carbon dioxide (CO2)—the primary heat-trapping greenhouse gas driving the climate crisis—from the atmosphere than grass alone, sequestering it in both above- and below-ground biomass.

Even with the addition of vibrantly-colored annuals like red or purple lettuces, Swiss chard, mustard greens and edible flowers, your new edible landscape is still likely to require a lot less fossil fuel-powered maintenance than a traditional lawn.

You'll also be doing your part to save water—most home gardeners use far less water than commercial agricultural production of the same crop. All at a time when the climate crisis is driving major changes to precipitation patterns all over the world, resulting in some cases of drought and crop loss.

Ultimately, if done correctly using sustainable practices, edible landscaping can go a long way toward conserving valuable resources while creating a very effective carbon sink—and just think of all the money you'll save growing even a few of your favorite fruits and veggies right in your own yard.

Getting Started

"Any landscape design begins with choosing the location of the paths, patios, fences, hedges, arbors and garden beds—establishing the 'bones' of your garden," according to Mother Earth News.

So, before you plant a single seed or transplant, you need to ask yourself a few simple questions: How much of my yard do I want to convert into an edible landscape? What exactly do I want this to look like? Are vivid, popping colors my thing, or am I after cooler shades of blue and lavender? Would a path made of wood chips be preferable to one made of gravel? Do I want to go all-in on semi-permanent raised beds?

What you want is, of course, up to you, but be mindful of the upkeep your garden plan will require – and keep in mind that you're unlikely to be the only one who loves your new, climate-friendly edible landscape. Deer, squirrels, birds, groundhogs, and rabbits, as well as a plethora of creepy crawlies, all have a taste for many of the same delicious fruits and veggies we love to gobble down, so consider incorporating fencing and other barriers as part of your design.

And remember to not get overwhelmed. Gardening should be relaxing and fun, and you don't need to completely overhaul your lawn all at once, if you don't want to. Reimagining a landscape can be time-consuming and depending on how you do it, even a little expensive. So if you'd rather approach your project a little bit at a time, replacing a few square feet of lawn here or there with some berry bushes or culinary herbs and salad greens, go that route.

Much like swapping out your old incandescents in favor of energy-efficient lightbulbs, every little bit helps. One or two berry bushes or dwarf fruit trees will sequester far more carbon than a patch of grass. The planet will thank you.

What to Plant?

Selecting plants for your edible landscape is double the fun of a traditional flower bed because you've added a dimension to your decision-making—your plants need to be beautiful and yummy.

Of course, what you can grow depends on the conditions of your yard. And, with our warming world and possible changes to your region's climate in mind, consideration should be given to types of plants that may require less watering and/or are more drought or heat tolerant, as well as those more tolerant to increasing salinization, if you live in a coastal area.

With the design and color scheme you've sketched out, you also want to be sure to plant fruits and veggies that you, as well as your family and friends, actually enjoy eating. Good thing there's plenty to choose from.

"I'd challenge anyone to find a shrub with more visual impact than a blueberry that covers itself with white flowers in spring, dusky purple berries in summer, and radiant red leaves in the fall," the Spruce's Marie Iannotti writes.

Blueberries live their best life in full sun, so if you're after berries, but your yard or garden space is a bit shady, consider raspberry bushes, which do well in medium shade, instead.

A little shade won't stop you from planting veggies either. Luckily, there are plenty of attractive, shade-tolerant varieties you can tuck into the sometimes-shadowy corners of your edible landscape, including beets, cauliflower, and cabbages and leaf lettuces that come in a variety of colors.

If arbors, fencing, or trellises are part of your design, pole beans make for an attractive climber. They feature soft, heart-shaped leaves and speckle themselves with tiny flowers in the springtime. These posies tend to skew white or very pale purple, so if you're looking for a flash of color, pick up scarlet runner beans, which light up with their namesake red instead.

For a more perennial arbor cover, grape vines are hardy plants with a lot of character, offering up tasty fruit in the summertime and vivid red leaves in the fall.

But what should you put in your garden beds? Well, like we said, that depends a lot on you, your climate, and what you find tasty and easy on the eyes, but here are a few things to keep in mind:

    Tomatoes do particularly well when planted with flowers because isolating them to some extent helps prevent common diseases from spreading easily from one plant to the next.

    Because they are strong, well-defined, and can be planted in clean lines, lettuces make great edging plants, and can be found in more colors than you think, including deep purples.

    Speaking of color, it's your friend—and numerous traditional "greens," including Swiss chard and some cabbages, come in a rainbow of colors, while others like kale, according to Better Homes & Gardens, "have gorgeous fall color and are ideal for tucking into containers and borders for color late in the year."

    On the herb front, rosemary is a particularly pretty and fragrant plant.

    It's also important to remember that plenty of flowers are themselves edible. Nasturtiums and violas are among the best known and easiest to grow, but borage blossoms, calendula, chives and hibiscus also make for attractive offerings ... in both the garden and the right salad.

If you're looking for a fern-like perennial to add a bit of drama to a corner of your evolving new yard, think about asparagus, which comes back again and again for decades and serves up one of the season's first harvestable vegetables. It may take some time to get the desired effect, but left to its own devices, asparagus plants will develop big feathery fronds that catch the breeze.

Other less-common perennials to think about to give your edible landscape a little added character include artichokes, rhubarb, and French sorrel.

As for groundcover, consider strawberries. In the spring, they pop with white flowers that give way in early summer to sweet red fruit. By fall, their leaves take on a rich reddish-orange.

Now, Take the Extra Step to Help Us Protect What Matters

In addition to helping you lessen your carbon footprint, transforming your outdoor space with some edible landscaping could also help protect the health of your soil, which is threatened by climate impacts like erosion, pollution, and losses in organic matter.

Take an in-depth look at climate change's impact on soil health as well as what's at stake and what you can do to support a world where we can provide our booming population with fresh, healthy food grown in a sustainable soil ecosystem in Right Under Your Feet: Soil Health and the Climate Crisis.

Download this free resource now—and make sure you share it with your friends and family: https://www.climaterealityproject.org/content/right-under-your-feet-soil-health-and-climate-crisis
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« Reply #940 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:20 AM »

Major Coal-Fired Power Plant in Washington to Go Solar

By Starre Vartan

It was once Washington state's largest coal pit, a terraced, open-to-the-sky strip mine, five miles from the city of Centralia and halfway between Seattle and Portland, Oregon. Today, the coal beds are quiet and blanketed in green, but an adjacent TransAlta power plant with three tall stacks still churns out electricity the traditional way, with coal now supplied from Wyoming.

Not for much longer. The coal mine closed in 2006—the last of the state's mines to be shuttered—and then in 2011, TransAlta reached a deal with the state to shut down the plant. One burner will go cold in 2020 and the other by 2025. This move is part of Washington's larger plan to get carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. And it should go a long way toward meeting that goal: Today, in a state that relies on hydropower for most of its energy, the Centralia power plant contributes 10 percent of the state's total greenhouse gases—as much as the emissions from 1.75 million cars.

The plant currently also contributes a good deal of electricity, of course. When the Centralia power plant's smokestacks quit spewing in 2025, it will mean a loss of 1,340 megawatts of energy. (Of that, it currently supplies about 380 megawatts to area homes via Puget Sound Energy, or PSE, the largest power supplier in the state.) To help fill that gap, TransAlta is converting about 1,000 acres of its former mine site to a solar farm. In homage to the old pioneer town of Tono that once stood where the mine now craters the earth, Tono Solar will be the land's next incarnation.

"This is a good-news story about moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewables," said NRDC senior attorney Noah Long about the project, which is set to start producing clean energy as soon as late 2020. He points out that beyond its climate benefits, it's good for TransAlta's bottom line, too. "Full reclamation of the site itself can be expensive," he explained. Under the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977, coal companies are required to restore land once they have finished mining it to prevent groundwater contamination and erosion—and avoid leaving behind an eyesore. "By putting solar on the land, it maintains an industrial use," said Long. "This good use of a brownfield brings the costs of reclamation down quite a bit."

It's also a practical reuse, since, handily enough, infrastructure already exists at the Tono Solar site to get the sun-produced electricity to the people who need it. "The location is good because it's close to transmission lines,"' TransAlta lead developer Ryan Schmidt said in a March 2018 presentation. "We know exactly what's in the ground, because we put it there when we reclaimed the site."

Tono Solar won't fully make up for the power generated by the Centralia coal-fired plant—it's expected to provide 180 megawatts of electricity. But already, the region is shaping up to become a hub for alternative energy projects. Just 15 miles from the site of the future solar farm, plans are also in the works for the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project. That venture expects to produce almost 140 additional megawatts from 38 turbines going up in neighboring Lewis County. (The two projects combined get much closer to making up for the needs of the PSE customers who currently rely on the coal plant.)

Ed Orcutt, Washington State representative for the 20th District, which includes Centralia, pointed out that these projects are near areas with a high demand for electricity—including the growing metro areas of Portland and Seattle. Orcutt noted he'd like to see even more alternative energy in the region and wants to work with area glassmakers to produce solar panels. "I'm interested in finding out how the glass could be locally sourced to get components manufactured and constructed in my district," he said.

And making the region a center for alternative energy could help offset job losses once the coal plant shuts down entirely. While Tono will create more than 300 construction jobs to build the solar installation, it will offer only up to five permanent positions. That's a concern on the mind of Bob Guenther, a local community member who worked at the Centralia power plant for 34 years as a mechanical foreman. Guenther has been active in negotiating for workers' interests alongside environmental considerations and said he'd like to see Centralia become a leader not just in renewable energy production but manufacturing, too. Along with the wind and solar projects, he pointed to an industrial park not far from the soon-to-be-built solar farm, where solar panels and batteries could be built.

"What I'm hoping is that when TransAlta gets going on this project, that we can get some battery storage on it, too," Guenther said, referring to the energy-storing battery units that now go hand-in-hand with many solar plants and help to save up the electricity produced during sunny days for use at other times. "We get so many cloudy and dark days here, and charged batteries could pick up that load and make for smoother power flow," he added. Guenther is optimistic about what these new, high-tech fields could mean for his community. "I think we are going to end up doing some smart things with the Industrial Park, and that will be able to replace all the jobs from the plant closing—and more, too," he said.

Meanwhile, clean energy advocates hope that projects like Tono Solar could serve as a blueprint for similar initiatives. They say there's a good chance that other former industrial sites requiring reclamation—with transmission infrastructure already in place—may be out there as well. "There are lots of places in the Rust Belt of our country, not just coal mines," Long said, noting their uses could be rethought, from former industrial sites to farmland degraded with heavily salted soils. All these are candidates for renewable energy projects.

Rooftop solar panels on a Chino, California, Wal-Mart

Of course, when it comes to solar, another advantage is that it's scalable—you don't need a huge plant to process sunlight, after all. Several smaller solar installations—in parking lots, for example, or even on big-box store rooftops, spread out over an area, could be combined together. It's this flexibility that will be key to transitioning away from coal-fired power plants like the one in Centralia and toward clean energy sources like solar.

Already, one project is transforming a former mine site in eastern Kentucky—where coal production has plummeted in the past decade. And with more than six million acres of abandoned mine land in the U.S., according to the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, that leaves lots of room for innovative newcomers like Tono Solar, the nearby Skookumchuck Wind project—or maybe even for the battery-manufacturing plant that Bob Guenther is angling for in the heart of Washington state.

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« Reply #941 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:22 AM »

Growing Number of Bangladeshis Flee Rising Waters

By Kieran Cooke

As another monsoon season begins, huge numbers of homeless Bangladeshis are once again bracing themselves against the onslaught of floods and the sight of large chunks of land being devoured by rising water levels.

Bangladesh, on the Bay of Bengal, is low-lying and crisscrossed by a web of rivers: two thirds of the country's land area is less than five meters (approximately 16 feet) above sea level. With 166 million people, it's one of the poorest and most densely populated countries on Earth—and one of the most threatened by climate change.

A recently released report by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) says rises in sea levels caused by climate change could result in Bangladesh losing more than 10 percent of its land area by mid-century, resulting in the displacement of 15 million people.

The country is already experiencing some of the fastest-recorded sea level rises in the world, says the EJF, a UK-based organization that lobbies for environmental security to be viewed as a basic human right.

Unpredictable Rains

Increasingly erratic rainfall patterns—linked to changes in climate—are adding to the nation's problems. Sudden, violent downpours have resulted in rivers breaking their banks and land being washed away.

Rising sea levels mean land and drinking water is contaminated by salt. Farmers are forced to abandon their land and move—many to Dhaka, the capital, one of the world's so-called megacities, with a population of more than 15 million.

"Bangladesh has a long history of floods, but what used to be a one-in-20-year event is now happening one year in five," said Saleemul Huq, director of the International Centre for Climate Change and Development in Dhaka. "It is what we would expect with climate change models."

Farmers further inland are also forced to move to the capital in search of work due to surging rivers eating away their lands. The city's slums are expanding, and Dhaka's population is increasing by more than 4 percent each year.

Farming Abandoned

"We had a small farm—we used to produce peanuts and gourd, corn and sugar all year round," said one farmer quoted in the EJF report. "Now I collect scraps of work as a labourer."

EJF says climate change should not be seen only as an environmental issue; climate change is also contributing to a rapidly developing humanitarian crisis, not just in Bangladesh but in many other regions around the world.

"It is countries like Bangladesh, and people like those we met, whose contributions to climate change have been among the smallest, that are now facing the worst impacts," said Steve Trent, EJF's executive director.

"We must act now to prevent this becoming a full-scale humanitarian crisis."

In recent months more than 600,000 people—Rohingya refugees from violence in neighboring Myanmar—have set up shelters in southern Bangladesh. There are fears that this community could also be under threat during the monsoon period.

The EJF report highlights how women in Bangladesh are especially vulnerable to climate-related disasters. In 1991 a cyclone which swept across the Bay of Bengal caused the deaths of 140,000 people and forced 10 million to leave their homes.

EJF says 90 percent of the dead were women; their lower status means they are often not taught survival skills. Women also tend to stay with children and other family members when disaster strikes.

Those women who do migrate find it more difficult to adapt to life in a Dhaka slum or elsewhere. Some become victims of trafficking, ending up in brothels in India.

Foreign Migration Grows

EJF says that while most climate migration is internal, there are indications that growing numbers of Bangladeshis are seeking to move outside the country. It says that in early 2017 there was a particularly big surge in the number of Bangladeshi migrants arriving in Italy after completing the perilous journey by land and sea from their homeland.

EJF is calling for the creation of an international legally binding agreement for the protection of climate refugees. The EU should take the lead in this process, it says.

"There should be clarifications on the obligations of states to persons displaced by climate change, with new legal definitions," says EJF.

"Definitions of climate-induced migration are urgently needed to ensure a rights-based approach and give clarity to the legal status of 'climate refugees'; these must be developed without delay."

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« Reply #942 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:25 AM »

Mexico City’s New Airport Is an Environmental Disaster But It Could Become a Huge National Park

By Gabriel Diaz Montemayor

Mexico City long ago outgrew the two-terminal Benito Juárez International Airport, which is notorious for delays, overcrowding and canceled flights.

Construction is now underway on a striking new international airport east of this metropolis of 20 million. When it opens in late 2020, the LEED-certified new airport—whose terminal building was designed by renowned British architect Norman Foster in collaboration with the well-known Mexican architect Fernando Romero—is expected to eventually serve 125 million passengers. That's more than Chicago O'Hare and Los Angeles' LAX.

But after three years of construction and US$1.3 billion, costs are ballooning and corruption allegations have dogged both the funding and contracting process.

Environmentalists are also concerned. The new airport is located on a semi-dry lake bed that provides water for Mexico City and prevents flooding. It also hosts migrating flocks and is home to rare native species like the Mexican duck and Kentish plover.

According to the federal government's environmental impact assessment, 12 threatened species and 1 endangered species live in the area.

The airport project is now so divisive that Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the populist front-runner in the country's 2018 presidential campaign, has suggested scrapping it entirely.

An Environmental Disaster

I'm an expert in landscape architecture who studies the ecological adaption of urban environments. I think there's a way to save Mexico's new airport and make it better in the process: create a nature reserve around it.

Five hundred years ago, lakes covered roughly 20 percent of the Valle de Mexico, a 3,500-square-mile valley in the country's south-central region. Slowly, over centuries, local residents—first the Aztecs, then the Spanish colonizers and then the Mexican government—built cities, irrigation systems and plumbing systems that sucked the region dry.

By the mid-20th century, the lakes had been almost entirely drained. In 1971, President Luís Echeverría decreed the area a federal reserve, citing the region's critical ecological role for Mexico City. The smattering of small lakes and reforested land there now catch and store runoff rainwater and prevent dust storms.

The new airport will occupy 17 square miles of the 46-square-mile former Lake Texcoco. To ensure effective water management for Mexico City, the airport master plan proposes creating new permanent water bodies to offset the lakes lost to the airport and cleaning up and restoring nine rivers east of the airport. It also proposes planting some 250,000 trees.

The government's environmental assessment determined that the impacts of the new airport, while significant, are acceptable because Lake Texcoco is already "an altered ecosystem that lost the majority of its original environmental importance due to desiccation and urban expansion." Today, the report continues, "it is now only a desolate and abandoned area."

Environmentalists loudly disagree.

Make Mexico's Airport Great Again

I see this environmental controversy as an opportunity to give Mexico City something way more transformative than a shiny new airport.

Nobody can entirely turn back the clock on Lake Texcoco. But the 27 square miles of lake bed not occupied by the airport could be regenerated, its original habitat partially revitalized and environmental functions recovered in a process known as restoration ecology.

I envision a huge natural park consisting of sports fields, forests, green glades and a diverse array of water bodies – both permanent and seasonal—punctuated by bike paths, walking trails and access roads.

The airport will come equipped with new ground transportation to Mexico City, making the park easily accessible to residents. Extensions from the surrounding neighborhood streets and highways could connect people in poor neighborhoods abutting the airport—dense concrete jungles like Ecatepec, Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl and Chimalhuacan—to green space for the first time.

The nine rivers that empty into Lake Texcoco from the east could be turned into greenways to connect people from further out in Mexico State to what would become the area's largest public park.

Space could also be reserved for cultural attractions such as museums, open and accessible to passengers in transit.

New Master Plan

This idea is not as crazy as it sounds.

As early as 1998, Mexican architects Alberto Kalach and the late Teodoro González de León proposed rehabilitating the lakes of the Valley of Mexico. Their book, The City and its Lakes, even envisaged a revenue-generating island airport as part of this environmentally revitalized Lake Texcoco.

Under President Felipe Calderon, Mexico's National Water Commission also proposed building an ecological park in Lake Texcoco, which was to include an island museum and restore long-degraded nearby agricultural land. But the project never gained traction.

Granted, turning a large, half-constructed airport into a national park would require an ambitious new master plan and a budget reallocation.

But in my opinion, evolution and change should be part of ambitious public designs. And this one is already expected to cost an additional $7.7 billion to complete anyway.

Toronto's Downsview Park—a 291-acre former air force base turned green space—has transformed so much since its conception in 1995 that its declared mission is now to "constantly develop, change and mature to reflect the surrounding community with each generation."

Local communities neighboring Mexico City's new airport were not adequately consulted about their needs, environmental concerns and their current stakes in the Lake Texcoco area. A revamped park plan could be truly inclusive, designed to provide recreation and urban infrastructure—and maybe even permanent jobs—for these underserved populations.

Presidential Race

Three of the four candidates in Mexico's July 1 presidential election want to finish Mexico City's new international airport. But López Obrador, who for months has had an unbeatable lead in the polls, is not so sure.

Early in his campaign, he said he would cancel it if elected. Instead, López Obrador suggested, a former air force base could become the new international terminal. It would be connected to Benito Juárez airport, 22 miles south, by train.

López Obrador has since said he would support completing construction of the new international airport if the remaining financing came from the private sector, not the Mexican government. Currently, some two-thirds of the project is funded by future airport taxes.

López Obrador's promise to review and likely upend the airport plan could open the door to its wholesale transformation, putting people and nature are at the core of a plan ostensibly designed for the public good.

Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.

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« Reply #943 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:26 AM »

World Vegetable Harvests Threatened by Environmental Changes


Climate change is boxing us into a dietary corner. Research last month suggested that avoiding meat and dairy was the best thing an individual could do to reduce their ecological footprint, but now scientists predict that rising global temperatures and other changes could make vegetable and legume alternatives harder to come by.

The new study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the first to consider the impacts of climate change on the harvest of non-staple vegetables and legumes. It found that if no action is taken, environmental changes predicted for the second half of the 21st century could reduce vegetable and legume yields by around one-third.

"Vegetables and legumes are vital components of a healthy, balanced and sustainable diet and nutritional guidelines consistently advise people to incorporate more vegetables and legumes into their diet. Our new analysis suggests, however, that this advice conflicts with the potential impacts of environmental changes that will decrease the availability of these important crops unless action is taken," study lead author Dr. Pauline Scheelbeek of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) said in a LSHTM press release.

While the potential impact of climate change on staple crops has been studied in depth, all that was known about its impact on non-staple vegetables was that increased levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might increase yields.

To get a more complete picture, researchers examined every experimental study published since 1975 on the impact of various environmental changes on vegetable and legume yield and nutritional content in 40 countries.

Based on the data, the researchers estimated how changes predicted for the mid-to-late 21st century, such as increased carbon dioxide levels, increased ozone levels, decreased water availability, increased water salinity and increased temperatures, would impact yields and nutrition.

Impacts on nutrition were mixed, but researchers found worrying changes in the potential yields of these healthy foods. While they found that an increase in carbon dioxide of 250 parts per million would increase vegetable and legume yields by an average of 22 percent, this was counteracted by the impact of other changes. A 25 percent increase in ozone would decrease yields by 8.9 percent, a 50 percent increase in water scarcity would decrease yields by 34.7 percent, a 25 percent increase in salinity would decrease yields by 2.3 percent and a four degree Celsius increase in temperature in warmer regions like Southern Europe, Africa and South Asia would decrease yields there by 31.5 percent.

Senior study author and LSHTM Professor Alan Dangour said the results were a call to action for governments, agricultural workers and public health officials.

"Our analysis suggests that if we take a 'business as usual' approach, environmental changes will substantially reduce the global availability of these important foods. Urgent action needs to be taken, including working to support the agriculture sector to increase its resilience to environmental changes and this must be a priority for governments across the world," Dangour said in the release.

"But our study also identifies the broader policy relevance of environmental change. Vegetables and legumes are essential constituents of healthy diets and so efforts to ensure that their global availability is not threatened by predicted environmental changes must also be high on the global public health agenda," he said.

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« Reply #944 on: Jun 14, 2018, 04:30 AM »

Don't have sex with men from 'different race' during World Cup, warns Russian politician

Tamara Pletnyova warns Russian women not to have sex with non-white men as their children may face discrimination

Thu 14 Jun 2018 01.36 BST

Russian women should avoid sex with non-white foreign men during the football World Cup because they could become single mothers to mixed-race children, a senior lawmaker in Moscow said on Wednesday.

Even when Russian women marry foreigners the relationships often end badly, said Tamara Pletnyova, head of parliament’s committee for families, women and children. Women are often stranded abroad or in Russia but unable to get their children back, she said.

She spoke in response to a question from a radio station about the so-called “Children of the Olympics” after the Moscow Games in 1980, a time when contraception was not widely available in the country.

The term was used during the Soviet era to describe non-white children conceived at international events after relationships between Russian women and men from Africa, Latin America, or Asia. Many of the children faced discrimination.

“We must give birth to our children. These [mixed-race] kids suffer and have suffered since Soviet times,” Pletnyova told Govorit Moskva radio station.

“It’s one thing if they’re of the same race but quite another if they’re of a different race. I’m not a nationalist, but nevertheless I know that children suffer. They are abandoned, and that’s it, they stay here with mum,” she said.

Pletnyova said she that she would like Russian citizens to get married “out of love regardless of their ethnicity”.

Another lawmaker said foreign fans could bring viruses to the World Cup and infect Russians.

In comments to Govorit Moskva radio station, Alexander Sherin also said Russians should be careful in their interactions with foreigners as they might try to circulate banned substances at the tournament.

Thousands of football fans from 31 countries are travelling to the World Cup in Russia that kicks off on Thursday with an opening ceremony in the capital followed by a match between the host team and Saudi Arabia.

Fifa and the Russia 2018 organising committee did not immediately respond to a request for comment about Pletynova’s remarks.

Pletnyova is a lawmaker for the KPRF Communist Party, a nominally opposition party that backs President Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin on most key issues.

Russians make up the majority ethnicity in the country but there are dozens of minority groups, as well as a large labour migrant force predominantly from Central Asia and the South Caucasus.

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